The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The business world was a-twitter with the exit of two major corporate executives.
Sallie Krawcheck was let go from Bank of America's ( BAC) wealth management unit. Carol Bartz was fired from Yahoo! ( YHOO), getting the bad news in a pre-scripted telephone call. Krawcheck and Bartz have both been lauded as superstars with proven records of success in other companies. Their demise offers lessons that other chief executives would be wise to learn. That includes Michele Bachmann, would-be Republican nominee for President. At first blush, running the country may not seem much like running a corporation. But leadership is leadership, and the cutthroat cultures of national politics and big business have much in common. Just as corporate executives can learn from politicians' mistakes, political candidates can benefit from observing how the business community evaluates its leaders, and which leaders survive to work another day.
1. Gender matters. People pretend America has gotten past sexism, but the simple fact that a woman leader is a woman is never ignored. If you doubt it, search news stories about Bartz and Krawcheck. On the surface, the two don't have a lot in common -- they're from different industries, they came up by different career paths, they're more than a decade apart in age -- but every other story pairs them because they're, well, women. Women represent only 3% of top management in Fortune 500 companies, so their demise is being heralded as proof that high-powered women are treated differently than their male counterparts. As a professional woman friend quipped, throughout her career she's often been the only woman in the room. By definition, everybody noticed her and came quickly to judgment if she had an off day. What does this mean for candidate Bachmann? Simply that she's the only woman in the Republican field and, like it or not, she'll be scrutinized more closely. She'll also be evaluated differently -- her physical appearance will be more important to voters than it would be if she were male. (When French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was appointed head of the International Monetary Fund, it took the press less than a day to start covering her wardrobe.) Bachmann should recognize that voters may be too busy looking at her to listen to her and work that much harder to get her message across.